I visited New York City for the first time last month with Chad to celebrate our anniversary. We have been married for seven years! We only had two days so I didn’t get to see everything on my list, but we still managed to fit quite a lot in and I will be sharing our experiences in three blog posts with recipes- starting with New York Style Pizza at the end of this post.
We live outside of Washington, D.C., so it was an easy train ride to reach the city. Our train left Union Station at 5:25 in the morning and reached Penn Station at 8:45 am.
We stayed at The Lexington New York City in Midtown. It is just north of the Chrysler Building and about a ten minute walk from Rockefeller Center. We requested early check-in and a room on a higher floor and had no issues checking-in at 9:30 am. Our room was on the 10th floor and fairly quiet. It wasn’t a hotel for views (unless you count spying on the office across the street) and the room was quite small like many hotels in the area with the bed taking up most of the space, but overall we had a pleasant experience.
The hotel is styled as a tribute to the Jazz Age and they feature live jazz music every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday evening. We stayed in a Queen Room. It was 180 square feet and included queen-size bed, desk, small marble-designed bathroom with shower/bath, flat screen HD Smart TV with streaming apps, blackout shades on the windows, hairdryer, and iron/ironing board (no microwave or mini fridge).
I liked the added touch of the lobby providing complementary coffee, tea, and water bottles. We didn’t need it, but they will also store your luggage before or after checkout for $3 dollars per bag (at the time of this post).
After dropping our luggage off in the room and making sure everything was in order, we walked straight to Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock since we had tickets for 10:30 am. My original plan was to go right before sunset, but the weather forecast called rain with overcast skies that day so I opted for the Sun and Stars package instead. This way we were able to get photos of Manhattan during the day and return later that night to see the lights.
While deciding between the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, I ultimately chose Top of the Rock for the great views of Central Park and the Empire State building itself.
Tickets are currently 34 dollars per person (28 for children over 6 and 32 for seniors). Adding the Sun & Stars package is an additional 15 dollars which allows you to visit twice in 24 hours. The VIP Access Ticket is 65 dollars per person. Tickets are provided with a timed entry. If you purchase an unscheduled ticket, then it must be exchanged at the Box Office for an available time slot before entry. Top of the Rock is open from 8 am to midnight 7 days a week (last elevator goes up at 11:15, hours may vary on holidays).
The main entrance is on 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. We took the second entrance on the Concourse level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
We went through the security checkpoint (no food or beverages are allowed) and walked through a room featuring a short history of the building and a photo op before being escorted to the elevators. The elevators quickly took us to the first observation deck on the 67th floor. This observation deck is surrounded by glass, so we went straight to the stairs to reach the top deck on the 70th floor which offered incredible views of Central Park to the north and Midtown/Downtown Manhattan to the south without the glass enclosure (the top deck may be closed during inclement weather).
It was fairly overcast, but I was still able to see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
We went back that night after dinner (didn’t need to go at a specific time after our first visit with the Sun and Stars package as long as it was within 24 hours) to get a different view with all the lights.
After our visit to the Top of the Rock, we took a short walk to explore the rest of Rockefeller Center.
The Concourse of Rockefeller Plaza is an underground center filled with specialty shops, restaurants, and places for souvenirs. We went a couple of weeks before Easter, so I picked up some chocolates from Jacques Torres Chocolate for Evan and Claire’s Easter baskets. There are other locations throughout the city.
Chad especially enjoyed Nintendo NY on the corner of W 48th Street and Rockefeller Plaza. The store is two stories and spans over 10,000 sq feet. On the second floor, there are a few game systems to try out and various memorabilia. They even have a Game Boy that was located in barracks that were bombed during the Gulf War and still works.
Times Square is a short 8 minute or so walk from Rockefeller Center. We didn’t spend much time in the area other than to take a few photos and visit City Kitchen.
City Kitchen is located in Row NYC on 8th Avenue. I went straight to Dough and picked out an Horchata Doughnut. I loved their unique flavors like Passion Fruit with Cocoa Nibs, Hibiscus, and Dulce de Leche with Toasted Almonds. Chad got a PB&B Burger from Whitmans. It was ok, but he just didn’t love it for the price and smaller size. He also caught them at a bad time while they were switching between breakfast and lunch and had an over thirty minute wait even though the line was short. Other current vendors include Azuki, BOX, Gabriela’s Taqueria, Kuro-Obi, and Luke’s.
After City Kitchen, we hopped on the subway for a quick ride south to the Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market is a massive indoor food hall housed in the old Nabisco factory. It is open seven days a week (7 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, 7-7 Saturday, 8-6 Sunday) and houses over 35 vendors. We went on a rainy Saturday around noon and it was packed.
I could have easily spent many hours here exploring. I appreciated the signs posted to help point you in the right direction amongst the sea of people.
We picked Berlin Currywurst for lunch. Other than making it at home, I hadn’t come across currywurst since Germany so I was quite excited. I had the bratwurst in the original mild sauce. It was just like I remembered. You have your choice of sausage, sauce (other options are orange-ginger and garlic), and heat level. Chad had the Breakfast Sandwich (sausage in a bun with sunny side egg, onions, and sauerkraut). He had a spice level of 2 and it definitely had a kick. They have a disclaimer that you must be over the age of 16 to get a level 3 or 4.
The High Line, a 1.45 mile long public park built on an abandoned elevated freight rail line 30 feet above ground, runs from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street and next to the Chelsea Market. We went at the end of March when it was still cold outside so there wasn’t much in the way of greenery in the section we visited. It was still beautiful with views of the Hudson River and surrounding areas. I also liked the benches and lounging chairs set up along the path.
Our next stop after the High Line was Greenwich Village. Washington Square Park was filled with people and street performers. It is also home to the notable Washington Square Arch (photo above) at the northern entrance to the park. To the south, there are some beautiful views of One World Trade Center.
We came across the Paparazzi Dogs (created by Gillie and Marc) in the Ruth E. Wittenberg Triangle the intersection of Greenwich Avenue, 6th Avenue, and 8th Street.
For a snack, Chad and I shared a slice of cheese pizza at Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street. Joe Pozzuoli opened Joe’s Pizza in 1975. Lines here can be long, but service is quick. As a note, only cash (ATM outside) is accepted and there is limited seating.
After enjoying our slice of pizza, we walked to Jonty Jacobs on Christopher Street. Jonty Jacobs specializes in South African Biltong, Droewors, and other hard-to-find products like braai seasonings, snacks, and candies. Their biltong is made from all-natural, grass-fed dried beef cut into slices and the Droewors is a dried beef sausage. They are cured without the use of sodium nitrate or any other chemicals/additives. There are different cuts available for those who are health conscious and want something leaner plus spiced versions for a bit of a kick.
The Meadow is another small shop in Greenwich Village on Hudson Street. They offer a large variety of specialty chocolate bars, salt and salt blocks, bitters, and more. I particularly enjoyed the Compartes Chocolatier Let Them Eat Cake Bar with white chocolate, vanilla cake batter, and sprinkles along with a few international offerings.
We ended the day with dinner at BarBacon in Hell’s Kitchen. This restaurant is a bacon lover’s dream. Even the desserts have bacon (Bacon Vanilla Milkshake and Chocolate Covered Bacon). Chad started with The Beer & Bacon Flight, four select artisanal bacons and four 5 ounce craft beers. The maple bacon was my favorite. He also ordered the Lobster Loves Bacon Mac and Cheese while I had Shani’s BLT (applewood smoked bacon, romaine, tomato, sunnyside-up egg, avocado and mayo with housemade chips).
After trying the delicious cheese pizza at Joe’s Pizza, I wanted to try my best to recreate a New York Style Pizza at home. I found recipes for the dough and pizza sauce from Serious Eats and adapted them a bit for my taste. Overall I am happy with the results, but I need more practice on getting the edges of the crust thinner.
I pureed the sauce using an immersion blender. If you don’t have one available, allow the sauce to cool and transfer to a stand blender to puree until smooth. I topped the pizza simply with shredded, low-moisture block mozzarella.
The amount of salt and sugar used in the sauce may vary based on the freshness/flavor of the tomatoes. Season to taste.
New York Style Pizza
Adapted from Serious Eats
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water (105-115 degrees F), divided
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
28 ounces whole, peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1-2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2-2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal for dusting
1 pound block whole milk mozzarella
To make the crust: In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over 3/4 cup of the lukewarm water. Stir and allow to sit until frothy, 5-10 minutes.
In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a dough blade or a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix in the yeast with water and olive oil. Slowly add the remaining water to form a dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, elastic, and it passes the window pane test.
Divide into 3 equal portions, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap or place each into large ziploc bags. Refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days.
To make the sauce: In a large saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, oregano, red pepper, basil, sugar, and salt. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce heat to low, until barely simmering, and cook until reduced by half, 30-60 minutes.
Remove from heat and puree until smooth using an immersion blender. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
Two hours before assembly: Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and form each into a ball, pinching together the ends and tucking them under. Place each into a bowl, flouring if needed. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rest in a warm room temperature place until doubled, 1-2 hours.
One hour before baking, place a pizza stone in the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F.
To assemble: Dust a large baker’s peel with cornmeal. On a lightly floured surface, press a ball of dough into a circle 8 inches wide. Use your knuckles to stretch the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick and 12-14 inches wide with the edges slightly thicker. Place on the prepared baker’s peel. Add about 2/3 cup of the sauce to the center and spread it evenly across the pizza, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Evenly sprinkle with 1/3rd of the shredded mozzarella. Carefully slide onto the hot pizza stone. Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted, 10-15 minutes. Remove from the stone and repeat with remaining dough and toppings. Serve hot.